Graham Fest Invites Thousands to Christ after Va. Deaths

Over 33,000 people flocked to the Greater Hampton Roads Franklin Graham Festival in Norfolk, Va., over the last three days.

It was the first of the evangelist's three festivals in the United States this year and the second in his overall 2007 festival line-up.

"Tonight, Jesus Christ will come into your heart, your life, if you invite him," Graham told the large audience at the Scope Arena as he usually says at his world renowned three-day evangelistic events.

The invitation to accept Christ was accepted by 970 people, some of whom felt at peace and renewed.

"I feel like a new Dominique, so I'm really pleased with it," Dominique Nunn told Christian Broadcast News.

Preaching in Virginia weeks after the largest shooting rampage in U.S. history killed 33 people at Virginia Tech, Graham reminded the thousands of attendants about the brevity of life.

"It (the Virginia Tech tragedy)'s a good reminder that we need to be prepared for eternity," Graham told The Associated Press before the festival kicked off on Friday. Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response team were on the grounds of the Blacksburg campus, offering prayers and aid the entire week of the Apr. 16 shooting.

Just before Graham took the stage to talk about sin and salvation on Sunday, he was back stage reading the Bible and being updated by his spokesman, Jeremy Blume, about Tuesday's funeral service for the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority and Liberty University.

"All of us have opinions, but Jerry, I appreciated the way he opened the Scriptures and said, 'This is what the Bible says,'" said Graham back stage in a conversation with Pat Robertson, who also spoke at the Graham festival, according to The Virginian Pilot.

Falwell, who died last Tuesday after being found unconscious in his university office, left instructions asking Graham to speak at the memorial service, which will be held at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg.

After the service, Graham will soon be heading to Charlotte, N.C., to prepare for the May 31 dedication of the new Billy Graham Library, which will function as an ongoing evangelistic ministry as hundreds of thousands are expected to see the lifetime work of the admired and world renowned Rev. Billy Graham.

Amid preparations for the historic library, the younger Graham - eldest of Billy Graham's four children - recalled his father's visit to the very same arena in Norfolk 33 years ago where he brought his famed evangelistic crusade.

"My father was here in the same arena 33 years ago I think," he told AP.

At 54, Franklin Graham continues to be invited by churches around the world to preach the Gospel and offer hope to tens of thousands. His next U.S. festival is scheduled for June 8-10 in Binghamton, N.Y.

"What I'm coming for, why I've been invited by the churches in the community, is to offer the hope that we have in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," Graham commented.

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